The trade deadline came and went without the San Francisco Giants making a move. There were a few reasons why they didn’t make a deal as has already been discussed. However, there’s one player who continues to be a curious case.
Pablo Sandoval is in the final year of his contract and reportedly is asking for $100 million, but isn’t playing like it. What’s the deal with Sandoval? Will the Giants regret not trading him when they had the chance?
Sandoval has always been a highly regarded player. Considering his 2009 season as a 22-year-old rookie he should be. He hit .330 that year, with 25 bombs and 90 RBIs and should have been an All-Star. Also, the whole Panda marketing campaign in San Francisco is something that keeps his popularity high. In addition, he is one of the few players who is talked about when people talk about the Giants. However, his play the last few seasons has not warranted the hype that he’s been getting.
When examining Sandoval’s complete numbers and value to the Giants, it’s easy to see that he’s not worth the contract that he’s asking for. Over the last three seasons he has been around a .275 to .280 hitter, which isn’t terrible. However, his overall power numbers and RBIs are way below standard. His RBI totals since that 2009 breakout season are as follows: 63, 70, 63, 79 and 45 this season. That is well below standard for someone wanting $20 million a year.
The home run numbers for the same time period are: 13, 23, 12, 14 and 12. Based on home runs, RBIs and batting average, Sandoval is a .275, 15 homer and 70 RBI kind of player. That is still top 10 at his position, but certainly not worth the 5-year $100 million contract he’s asking for.
Some other stats that don’t play into Sandoval’s favor are the overall slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+. Sandoval’s slugging percentage is continuing to decline as indicated by the last three seasons where his slugging percentages are 447, 417 and 425. His OPS the last three seasons are 789, 758 and 751. Those numbers aren’t near his 09 and 2011 season where he had an OPS of well over 900 both seasons. His OPS over those seasons has still been top 10 in baseball at his position. Considering the potential that Sandoval showed then it’s disappointing to see him as only an above-average third baseman instead of a perennial All-Star, which he showed the potential to be.
The final stat OPS+ is like OPS except it takes into account the ball park that the player plays in. The last three seasons his OPS+ stats have been 123, 117 and 115 this season. League average is 100 so he’s a little above average in that stat. Just as a comparison: Mike Trout’s is 174 this season, Miguel Cabrera’s last season was 187 and Buster Posey was 171 in 2012. All three of those players led baseball that season. So comparing those to Sandoval, it’s easy to see that he’s not an elite player at this time.
Another major concern thing is Sandoval’s inability to hit left-handed pitching. Sandoval is hitting 183 as a right-handed hitter this season. His OPS is only 545, which shows that he has serious issues hitting as a right-handed hitter, which is troubling for a switch-hitter.
These are all the things the Giants need to consider when deciding whether or not to re-sign Sandoval. He turned down a 3 year 40 million dollar deal in the offseason that the Giants offered, so clearly the Giants and Sandoval are far apart on the contract negotiations. If that is the case why didn’t the Giants trade Sandoval in the offseason or dangle him at this recent trade deadline to see what teams would be willing to give up for him.
The Giants don’t have anybody ready to replace Sandoval, which might force them to give him the money that he wants. If they cave in and give Sandoval the money that he wants then they will probably regret it; much like they are starting to regret the Matt Cain contract and even starting to wonder about the Buster Posey mega-deal, which hasn’t netted the kind of results they hoped. Sandoval is a popular player and a popular marketing tool, but he’s not performing up to the level that the Giants need him too.
Not having anybody ready to replace Sandoval is puzzling considering the Giants should have known his contract demands and had somebody ready to replace him. Posey is someone who could potentially play third base if the Giants let Sandoval walk. However, he hasn’t practiced much at that position and it would be risky to play him at a new position.
The Giants are entering very tricky waters, not only with Sandoval, but with Michael Morse, second base position and backup utility infielders and outfielders. If the Giants pony up and give Sandoval a big contract, that pretty much means that they will have the same team as this year, which as we’ve seen, is really good when healthy, but terrible when key players get injured. However, if the Giants decide to let Sandoval walk it would leave questions at third base, but at the same time it would enable them to spend money on more positions rather than just one position like they would have with Sandoval.
Sandoval hitting 277 this season is also troubling considering this is his contract year and he came into this season in the best shape that he’s ever been in. If he’s hitting 277 in a contract year, it begs the question, is this who he is as a player, or is he going to get significantly worse after getting the big contract.
The Giants are obviously not focused on the future dilemma facing them. They are focused on making the playoffs, as well they should. However, it’s hard to ignore some of the future questions that will face this team and organization this offseason regardless of the rest of the season’s result. If the Giants get healthy and make a nice playoff run it won’t be nearly as bad. If they don’t get healthy and flame out the rest of the season, they will have even more questions than just whether to give Sandoval a big contract or not.
This is a smart ownership group that knows how to win, but also they tend to reward players for their past accomplishments as opposed to what they’ve done recently. The Oakland A’s trading Yoenis Cespedes for John Lester and Johnny Gomes should be something the Giants look at. Even if the player is popular, if he is not performing the way he’s supposed to be then it’s time to move on. That’s the situation that faces the Giants this offseason. If Sandoval stays at his current hitting pace this season and is still asking for 100 million dollars, the Giants should say thanks for everything you’ve done, but it’s time to move on.